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Playground – The Design of Sneakers

Start Date 26 June 2020
End Date 07 March 2021
Venue Musee du Design
Location Bordeaux, France
Curator Constance Rubini
Designer Mathieu Lehanneur and Arthur Fosse
Exhibition display of trainers in a triangle-shaped plinth
Exhibition display of trainers on a sloped plinth
Exhibition display of trainers on colourful plinths
Exhibition display of trainers on colourful plinths

Sneakers, tennis, trainers or sneakers, it doesn’t matter what their names are, they have marked our way of living and of dressing since the beginning of the 20th century. Worn by millions of people around the world, sneakers have become, in a few decades, an object of mass consumption that transcends gender, age and socio-cultural backgrounds. How did a simple sports shoe establish itself as a real fashion accessory, even a work of art? With more than 600 pairs, films, archival documents, photos and testimonies, the exhibition presents all the facets of this iconic object, from its success with New York breakdancers to the cutting-edge technological research it sparks.


Through a selection of some fifty emblematic models from 1900 to today, visitors discover the strong markers of what constitutes a history of sneakers. Worn by sports stars, testifying to revolutionary technical innovations, promoted by renowned rappers, skateboarders or designed by great couturiers, designers or artists, the selected models all have a story to tell. They are the reflections of a moment, of an era or of a social phenomenon.

The exhibition then offers to discover the evolution of this ascent. Long reserved for sports activities, sneakers will gradually overtake this field to play an essential role in urban culture and fashion. The transfer of sport to the street is intimately linked to the emergence of counter-cultures in the United States and in Europe from the 1970s. Symbols of anti-conformism, tools of distinction for icons of Hip-Hop, Break Dance or social and cultural affirmation of certain minorities, sneakers are soon found at the feet of all. But the democratic shoe par excellence also became in the 1980s the object of all covetousness. Prices soar and Sports Illustrated magazinetitle in 1990 “Your Sneakers or Your Life”. Films, photos and testimonials retrace this dazzling success.

The second part is devoted to the main innovations that have marked the sneaker market since its creation. Visitors can discover the research developed by the dedicated departments of the major brands which have been racing for the use of new technologies for several years. An evolution that today responds to the challenges of ethical fashion and sustainable development, and also stimulates the imagination of students from major design schools.

Important players in the world of sneakers are highlighted, from collectors – sneakerheads – to designers who have contributed to the greatest successes such as Jacques Chassaing, designer at adidas since 1981 to whom we owe in particular the Forum basketball shoe , or Tinker Hatfield, author of the Nike Air Max 1 or the famous Air Mag from the movie Back to the Future 2 .

Image courtesy of the Musee du Design, Bordeaux, France. Photo: Alastair Philip Wiper